I suppose as a disbeliever I could view Easter as a time of renewal and rebirth, but instead I just can’t help think about the mass delusion that religion brings to ordinary and rational people. Not to mention, the majority of people out hiding Easter eggs and attending early church services, the ones posting weird shit on facebook about how he is risen and his blood cleanses us all and god killed his son to save us sinners (you know what I’m talking about), have no idea where this holiday really comes from. So for those of you who’d rather read a book or gain some type of useful, reality based knowledge on this gorgeous Sunday morning, here’s a little Wiki about the Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eostre!
Show her some love ladies (and gents): http://poetrydj.wordpress.com/
Oh and by the way, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth or given in to Satan’s evil whispering, just super busy and enjoying life. Hope all is well.
First of all I would like to wish a very sincere if not belated Ramadan Mubarak to all of my Muslim readers.
When I left Islam, one of the most startling aspects of my new life sans religion was the appearance of what might only be termed an identity crisis. I found myself stripped of my religious identity, away from a community that surrounded me for a great part of my adult life. Gone were all of the rules about how to run my affairs, how to eat, how to behave and communicate, how to dress. I was left with only myself and the intimidating task of creating a new persona; or rather–and maybe more difficult–a persona that is organic and authentic, a true reflection of my Self. I pulled from that young woman I knew long ago and have often found myself giddy in re-discovering an aspect of myself that was buried away by a self-imposed, religiously driven cloister. I’ve gained an indestructible amount of strength from the knowledge of my struggles and achievements. I have also been humbled by a constant contemplation of my past follies, indiscretions and submission to a completely incompatible belief system and equally incompatible life partner. The questions of “why” still lurk. And the answers still disappoint me.
For the most part the identity crisis has passed, but what of the spiritual gaps? The coming of Ramadan this year was a tad bittersweet. For the first time in eight years I am not observing this month, but I have allowed the memories of it resurface.
When I remember Ramadan, I think about the early morning eggs and labne followed by the fajr prayer. Still half asleep, I remember placing my forehead on the soft rug whose mosaic designs glow in the dim lamplight. When I think of Ramadan, I think of darkened windows obscuring the rest of the sleeping world and the solemnity of the soul, earnestly striving to commune with the Divine. I think of the sweetness of the date and the cool contentment in a sip of water. How delicious is a simple cup of coffee or a small bowel of lentils?
There is something pure and meaningful in this ritual of fasting and prayer. When I think of it, I remember in fractured glimpses the beauty that I once saw in Islam and I feel like I just might be able to forgive all of its inadequacies. The thing is, I didn’t’ see God in any of it. I remember desperately wishing I could feel something greater while in salat or reading from the Quran, something that would knock me over and proclaim its superior Beauty, its Ultimate Love. I never found that. Can one continue to practice a religion thoroughly out of love for its ritual, its tenets, but without any belief in its beginnings, its foundation, it’s no uncertain claim to the Divine Will? I believe so. I just couldn’t.
So I’ve begun filling the gaps. My recent contemplations of this life and God and Beauty and Nature have been the most cathartic of my life. Even though my conclusions bring no answers, because I don’t believe we can know the answers; I’m not even sure there are any answers. To some this may seem hollow, or meaningless, but I assure you the very existence of the questions give me the meaning I need and crave. My mind and thoughts have been freed from the confines of religion and yet I’ve taken fragments and added to my experience, my knowledge.
And I like that I still have gaps. I carefully tend to some while allowing others to open. It’s part of being whole again, if still imperfect.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
–from the poem “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver
As some of my readers know, this blog was made private for a short time and could not be accessed. This is because at the time, I was going through quick and rapid changes in my personal life as my husband and I have separated and will be legally divorced by the middle of next month.
You won’t find me divulging my most personal details regarding my ex and you also won’t hear me speaking of him in any disparaging manner so all of you haters and drama queens out there can keep your comments to yourself. The reasons for the divorce are many layered and have been a long time in the making–even before my apostacy–though admittedly, and perhaps obviously, my loss of Islam was the nail in the coffin.
It seems that people, women in particular, are expected to follow duty first and put happiness on the back burner. I think this is tragic and I have made a conscious effort to put my happiness first and foremost. This doesn’t include shirking all responsibilities, because things like the well being of my children or the advancement of my career are both things that make me happy. For me, it does, however, include having complete independence in making my own decisions and deciding my own destiny.
It is because of this fact that I don’t know if I am marriage material. I rebel against any percieved attempt at control. I beat myself up because I think I’m not good enough. It took me thirty six years to realize that I am good enough. Actually, I’m pretty damned awesome. It’s when people place expectations on me that I can’t (or don’t want to) meet that the misery appears. So I say fuck their expectations.
I do not believe in an after life. I believe that this life is the only one we have. Religion seems to encourage sacrificing this life with the promise of a better one. This is complete and utter rubbish. The only thing we can be sure of is this life and it can end at any time.
Let us all learn from our sorrows so that we may experience joy.
It’s good to be back, y’all.
Many claim the Quran is a book of justice, peace and equality. This assertion is often used to promote a kinder, gentler Islam but is rarely backed with examples. When I read or hear these assertions, I find myself cringing a little because that is not what I find when I open the covers of the book. I’ve been thinking about how I can reach such a different conclusion; how I find a book full of threats and an overtly angry and punishing God.
I’m sympathetic to the modern-day pressures felt by the Muslim community. Justified feelings of humility and the pressures of post-colonialism have colored Islamic thought in the last two centuries and things have gotten even more ugly in this post 9/11 world. The current state of the Muslim world is a complex subject to be explored and deserves an honest introspection.
However, my argument is that Islam and Muslims have always been pitted against the disbelievers. Early on in Islamic history, Muslims tried hard to separate themselves from the disbelievers and the enmity and violent upheaval of those times find themselves into the verse.
Islam does offer justice to those within a Muslim society and to the believers. The poor are given charity, the orphans are cared for. Murderers and thieves are punished. Even women have a right to support by their male relatives in all instances, although she may have to share her husband with others, and accept a lesser inheritance. Slavery is acceptable in the eyes of Allah, but kindness to your human property is highly prized and rewarded. Religious minorities are protected, although at the cost of the jizya. The Quran outlines all the things necessary for a functioning society, but at at the heart of this society, Islam must prevail:
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued (9:29).
It’s a matter of debate whether or not living under an Islamic system of law as outlined in the Quran would be just to those living within it, either Muslim or not. However, it is often the case in religious systems that the concept of justice is carried out in the afterlife. From a purely supernatural standpoint, the fate of those who decide not to sumit to the laws of Islam and reject either the superiority of Allah or his existence altogether will surely be punished in the afterlife.
I don’t think those of us who disbelieve would have so many issues with religion if, in general, it was more universal and accepting of diverse human opinions. Religion creates a sort of tribalism, a dichotomy between us and them. Of course, humankind will tend toward this type of behavior with almost any ideology, but when it is codified into practice by the actual scripture it becomes more problematic because now the hatred and placement of inferiority of the other is sanctioned by God himself.
Yes, the Quran does speak of justice, but it is almost always juxtaposed against the dichotomy of the believers versus the unbelievers:
O ye who believe! stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.
To those who believe and do deeds of righteousness hath Allah promised forgiveness and a great reward.
Those who reject faith and deny our signs will be companions of Hell-fire. (5:8-10).
It was never a universal message of love or justice. It was a promise of rewards to the believer and submitter to Allah. Those who resist, rather in body or mind, meet a terrible punishment, either in this life or the next. It’s difficult to respect a system of belief that essentially declares you are going to burn in hell forever and I don’t find any justice in that.
I live in tornado alley. I was born and raised in this place where we measure the time with the change in seasons. Often times our elders will refer to the past as the winter we had that terrible snow storm or the spring all of town flooded or the summer it hit 100 degrees every day in the month of July. No weather is as severe or as worthy of respect, fear and awe as the tornado. My childhood is marked with evenings spent in the musty, damp air of the basement, fear and nervous excitement in the air, huddled with my family around the battery-powered radio. The weatherman’s voice was like some distant and wise patriarch; familiar, knowledgable and firm. Protecting us from danger and bringing news of safety.
Every year a community near me is completely destroyed. This year, there have been several but the big story was Joplin, Missouri. It’s almost like a sacred and horrible ritual we’ve all been through countless times. Watching the images of devastation roll into our living rooms, the shock and grief, the powerlessness, and then the outpouring of support and charity. We all breath a sigh of relief it wasn’t us, and live with the knowledge that next time it might be. The difference in this ritual these days is that everyone has cell phones and much of the experience is now caught on video.
Last night and today, as the ritual continued into my children’s generation, I watched in fascination as one particular clip struck me to the core. When the tornado hit, several people found themselves trapped in a convenience store and took shelter in a cooler. Of course someone switched on their cell phone. All was black but you could hear every word that was uttered underneath the roar of the tornado that destroyed everything around them. One young man could be heard telling his friends he loved them, another man kept uttering, “we’re going to make it, we’re going to be ok.” You could hear what sounded like young children screaming. And throughout it all, a woman chanting, “Jesus, Jesus. Heavenly father. Jesus, Jesus.” Over and over again.
While I’m not a huge fan of religion these days and I have plenty of criticisms of the institution, I cannot deny the role it plays in people’s lives. It is a comfort to so many. And while I don’t believe Jesus saved that woman yesterday, she very well might believe this. And one thing is almost certain, in her reality Jesus absolutely got her through those couple of minutes that must have been the most terrifying of her life.
We really are such frail creatures and life is so tenuous. Is it any wonder we reach for God when we are desperate, when catastrophe rips through the sky above us, black and deafening.
Even if I could get rid of religion, I couldn’t bear to take it away from those who need it the most–other human beings just like myself.
I love this poem. I love it the way I love my own skin. It’s like this poem belongs to me. I’m a woman who burns her bridges, leaving blazing fires in my wake. Sometimes, amidst the ashes, regrets are born.
BTW, I’m going camping for a few days and won’t have internet access.
by Dorianne Laux
Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook.
Not the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication.
Not the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door, or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the upstairs
window. Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied
of expectation. Relax. Don’t bother remembering
any of it. Let’s stop here, under the lit sign
on the corner, and watch all the people walk by